Every Wednesday, I post a picture of Vladimir Putin and an animal with the hashtags #PutinCuddles and #DictatorsNeedLoveToo. I’ve been doing this since April of 2016 and haven’t duplicated a picture yet. Since then, I’ve been asked by several people why I do this. The answer is complicated.

First, I find the pictures amusing. It’s infinitely funny to me how much branding and forethought goes into attempting to make a monster seem normal. Not only normal but soft and approachable like he wouldn’t gut you or just make you disappear if you pissed him off. Don’t kid yourself folks. Vladimir Putin is an old KGB guy and he’s playing the game like its 1960.

Second, I think it’s important to remember that no matter what kind of mythical monster the media and even Putin and the Russian government want you to believe, he’s still just a man. Stalin was a crazy sonovabitch but he loved people too. I think, sometimes, we lose that fact in the frenzy of political discourse.

Third, there’s an interesting dichotomy in these pictures. There’s an aspect of – see everyone, if an animal can adore me then I must not be so bad. Another point is to prove the pure masculinity and virility of the man. Outdoors means strong, brave, and pure unadulterated male. But there’s also some vanity in it. Putin likes to take his shirt off. ALOT.

Finally, I think it’s important people smile. Those pictures make me smile for all the reasons above. The hashtags minimize the importance of his presence and bring a little levity to a truly terrifying horizon as satire always does.

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